Miguel Martinez opened El Fenix, the first Mexican restaurant in Dallas, in 1918. To entice gringos, he topped his enchiladas with Texas chili and offered chicken-fried steak. Without realizing it, Martinez created a new cuisine. It was eventually dubbed Tex-Mex.
In 1928, Adelaida “Mama” Cuellar opened Cuellar’s Cafe in Kaufman. Four of her sons moved to Dallas in 1940 and opened the first El Chico. These two families laid the foundation for Dallas’ flavor profile. However, lard-laden combination plates changed forever once Mico Rodriguez and his partners opened the first Mi Cocina in the Preston Forest Shopping Center in 1991. Rodriguez refined the Tex-Mex experience by using quality ingredients such as expensive cheddar cheese and fresh jalapeños and cilantro. And he ran his 12-table restaurant like a fine-dining room. Gringos now lined up for sides of sunset sauce and hand-swirled Mambo Taxis. By 2002, Rodriguez was the CEO of M Crowd, a company with restaurants generating an estimated $48 million.
Then his world began to fall apart. Rodriguez struggled with drugs, alcohol, weight, and divorce. In 2008, he lost his company to his partners. “I literally won the lottery, lost the lottery, and millions of dollars,” Rodriguez says.
After years in and out of rehab, Rodriguez has started over. In 2012, he opened Mr Mesero, a 12-table restaurant on McKinney Avenue. Once again, he created an elegant, casual atmosphere and filled the menu with sophisticated Tex-Mex, such as personalized queso service. A year later, he opened Mesero Miguel, a chic, regional Mexican food restaurant. Customers who discovered Rodriguez in the early days now bring their grandchildren to his restaurants. They come for the unique flavors they grew up eating and now crave, a distinctive taste that is exclusive to Dallas. And even if he loses it all over again, nobody can ever erase Rodriguez’s stamp on Tex-Mex.